Back on Track?


Andre Iguodala's risky gamble to reject a $57 million contract extension looked like the right one in the regular season.

Funny how two miserable playoff games against one of the top teams in the East can change everything.

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Iguodala hasn't played for the Philadelphia 76ers like the kind of star who deserves franchise-player money. He hasn't even had the type of games that should make the Sixers feel as if he can help them get past the Pistons in their first-round series: Iguodala had a four-point effort in Game 2 and nearly cost them a Game 1 win with a missed late free throw.

The Sixers know entering Friday night's Game 3 that they can't expect to win the series, now tied 1-1, if their best player is posting numbers more fitting for the third man off the bench.

``He's been our guy all season long and he's still going to be our guy,'' coach Maurice Cheeks said on Thursday. ``He hasn't lost any confidence and we certainly haven't lost any confidence in him.

``It's a question of him delivering.''

The Pistons - specifically shutdown specialist Tayshaun Prince - have completely frustrated Iguodala. The fastbreak dunks in the open court, the easy buckets around the basket and the drives down the lane have all but been eliminated by the Pistons. Iguodala admitted shooting fadeaways just to try and get his scoring going.

Iguodala was scoreless in first half of Game 2 and finished 1-for-9 from the floor.

``There's always a guy stepping up in front of me when I'm making my moves,'' Iguodala said.

That was exactly Detroit's plan.

``Tay has done a great job initially 1-on-1,'' Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. ``We've had some people there who've given some pretty good help.''

Iguodala is an uncharacteristic 5-for-24 from the floor with 20 points in the first two games of the series. He's 10 of 12 from the free-throw line, which looks solid on paper, but one of the misses could have denied them their upset Game 1 victory.

He missed one of two free throws with 11 seconds left and was saved only by Rasheed Wallace's miss near the basket that would have tied it at 88.

Iguodala did make the most of a second chance, sinking two free throws with 7 seconds left to seal the 90-86 win.

``It's been kind of tough on him, but we just have to do other things,'' said Sixers center Samuel Dalembert.

Iguodala led the Sixers with 19.9 points and was easily their top 3-point shooter this season, hushing critics who questioned why he would turn down such a lucrative deal at the start of the season. He had earned a reputation as being a nice, No. 2 player, not someone to build a franchise around.

With Allen Iverson gone, Iguodala believed his first season as the Sixers' go-to player would help him put up the kind of numbers that could allow him to match the mega-deal or even earn more on the open market. Philadelphia will hold a right of first refusal on any offer from another team.

Iguodala said on Thursday he was ``pressing a little bit'' in his first playoff games since 2005 and hoped he was more relaxed when the series heads back to Philadelphia.

``It's about us going to that second or third option and having faith other guys can make plays,'' Iguodala said. ``With them making plays, it can open it up for me.''

The Sixers have trailed by double digits at halftime in each of the last two games and needed those young legs to rally and stun the Pistons in Game 1. They need Iguodala and Dalembert to snap out of the funks and find better looks close to the basket to have any shot at pulling off another upset, even at home.

``If we match their energy, we're in good shape,'' Prince said. ``But if we don't, that's when we start to break down a little bit.''

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